Throughout August I have been in contact with Sukhdeo Doobay. Sukhdeo, who goes by Sukh, was Johnny Thunders’ manager for his 1982 tour of Europe. Having worked under Christopher Gierke, Sukhdeo formed a friendship with Johnny that grew into a brotherly love. Working with Thunders off and on until his death, Sukhdeo visited New Orleans with Thunders during his 1987 tour of the States. In the following I have edited and attempted to efficiently represent Sukhdeo’s spiraling plot of thoughts and reflections on Thunders that he has collected for the past 20 years. Sukhdeo’s thoughts focus on a collection of stories, and how on April 22nd he received a phone call from Johnny Thunders, and then later the next day he received another phone call that Johnny Thunders was dead. With Sukhdeo’s stories, the truth behind the ‘mystery’ of Thunders’ death is solved, and all discrepancies can be pushed aside.
One of the managers with Sukhdeo on the ’87 tour with Thunders.
Bass guitarist for Johnny Thunders
Dr. John’s manager, and friend of Johnny and Sukhdeo
Photographer and associate of Christopher Geirke
Classical music fan, film director, and Johnny Thunders manager in the 80’s
Background singer off and on for Johnny Thunders
Film director who directed the (unreleased) documentary on Johnny Thunders
Drummer and close friend of Johnny Thunders
Sukhdeo’s memories of Johnny Thunders’ last day, April 22nd and 23rd, 1991:
I got a phone call; it was from Johnny Thunders. He called me from the Kennedy Airport, he knew that my friend B.B. had connections in New Orleans and he needed a place to stay. He called me back after I talked to B.B. and I told him she said the best play for him to stay is on Burgundy Street, the St. Peter’s GuestHouse, so he did...when I got the next call, it was from my friend Steve Hoda in New York.
Steve: “Suduka, I have some bad news…”
Sukh: “It must be bad if you are going to call me at three in the morning.” The first thing I said to Steve without hesitation was, “Johnny spoke to me several hours ago…” I don’t know why I said it, but I couldn’t control it.
Steve: “Well…I’m calling you about him…”
Sukh: “What happened?
Sukh: “Steve, I spoke with him at two in the afternoon; he called me from Kennedy.”
Steve: “Sukh, Johnny passed away in that hotel room in New Orleans.”
HOLY FUCK… My TV was already on MTV, big words filled the screen, “Rock Star Johnny Thunders died of a drug overdose in St. Peter’s Guesthouse.” How could they claim to know what happened? It was before the autopsy?
I knew Johnny, my concerns about him started when I visualized what happened in a summary of flash backs of our past. I thought of the '82 tour, “Welcome to the World of Rock ‘n Roll!” It was 1982 and Christopher left me to take care of Johnny for a short tour of Europe. It seemed liked we were just starting, and then I experienced him OD. I was naive about the world of the junkie. We would leave in two weeks, and I just had witnessed Johnny pass out. I didn’t know what to do, he was breathing but the 20 minutes he was passed out felt like a lifetime. Was I supposed to babysit him? He woke up, went to his shoes, and got more junk...apparently what just happened was no big deal. How could I deal with it? It was my first glimpse into the life of his tortured soul. I was saying to myself right there “Oh God, I wonder If I have to go with him on this trip” because I realized that when I was with him, that I had to make a lot of effort to bring him back if he was passed out…but at least I tried. I tried to calculate the probability of him living his life, it became clear to me what always seemed to happen to him.
…Reality was setting in…he got something there, he was by himself…I continued to think back about the Johnny Thunders I knew, the one I had worked with and loved…
I thought: he had no control. I begged him, I said, “Johnny, this gig we are doing in Oslo is the John the Baptist for our gig in Copenhagen. It’ll keep us on the map.” It was our space shuttle; once we got there it’s going to mushroom. The next gig was in Amsterdam…he was already dressed nice in a blue kimono, everything was in good shape. I said, “Johnny, we gotta go…” “I gotta use the bathroom,” Johnny protested. I was thinking, “Jesus, God Almighty.” Next thing I know the gig is minutes away. I looked around and was amazed; the gig was happening and then… JOHNNY PASSED OUT. “Let’s get him off the stage, let’s get him off the stage”…the promoter said. Moments passed, they felt like years. The gig was over and Johnny continued, “Sukh, I disappointed you and Christopher”… I said, “I can’t play, I can only work with you.” He didn’t disappoint us...I felt shocked, but how could I be surprised?
…Next thing I knew they canceled the gig because of the bad press the idea of a Johnny Thunders would recieve in Europe. What the fuck was I to do? I was scared; how could I face the owner of the club?…the guy was laughing at us and told us to relax because “this kind of stuff happens.”
The next day, since we couldn’t go to Copenhagen, we drove straight to Stockholm. The people who owned clubs would warn, “You know what he’ll do; he’ll get stuff.” When we were crossing borders from Norway to Sweden, they had two people checking stuff out, BUT when we got back they only had one person… Johnny caught onto this… Once we go to the side of the truck to talk to the person who checks the cars…we didn't stop…I knew they had stuff on them… We had this plan of using the truck in front of us to distract the people checking the cars, we passed the side of them. I drove away, shortly after Luigi relieved me from the driving. I think Jerry Nolan was with a girl, so he was driving with her… Some Sweden promoter who helped book the gig was there too.
Then, the media caught a hold of the news, ‘Rock Star Passes Out at Sold Out Gig.’ He was only two songs into the show too. There were two prints of the newspaper out and it seemed to be circulated everywhere. We couldn’t go anywhere without the story following us. Johnny was hungry and wanted to go out to eat instead of the alternatives. The news was everywhere and, frankly, I was to embarrassed to go out in public. Our faces were everywhere, people knew what we looked like...we were the talk of the town! That whole week we couldn’t even think for a moment that he didn’t want drugs.
…My experience told me there could be no mysteries about Johnny’s death. No one killed him…he killed himself. Still, thoughts continued to fill my mind as I continued to relive bits and pieces of the past following the call from Steve…
We go to Stockholm, and we have to return the car, Johnny wants a bottle of water so I go to a store to buy him and myself one. He tried to crush the car, he kicked the window to break the car when I was in the store. “Why did you do that?” He didn’t answer. He wouldn’t get physical with me. He used up all the prescriptions he had. He was a mess and wanted me to get drugs for him which pissed me off. It was ridiculous. What the fuck are we going to do? I reluctantly called Christopher, “I can’t do it, they are so pissed you don’t even know…there is no point for me being here. Try to arrange and get somebody over here…who can take it from here, I can’t do it…the gig in Copenhagen is fucked…”
Fresh from the reminiscences of 1982, I came back into 1991. God damn, I wish I went to New Orleans with him…I felt guilty…I knew how WEAK he was… I convinced myself it would be all right. I would call up John Cambel and a few people, and everybody would come down in a couple days. Jamie stayed with me and a few days later we drove to the funeral parlor. I didn’t see Jerry there, Jerry could’ve visited…but I didn’t see him. Luigi was there. Luigi and me were hanging, Allison was there. They were all there, I didn’t leave New York… His mom was crying, everyone was crying. B.B. read the paper to me over the phone, she was in New Orleans.
After viewing the police report and talking with the maintenance manager of the hotel, Sukh has came to the following conclusions.
He currently lives 2 minutes away from the place where Johnny died, and talks to the maintenance manager nearly everyday when he rides his bike by. He has
been in the room.
August 12, 2011:
The person who maintains the hotel KNOWS the real story. He told me and B.B. “Something was bouncing against the walls." B.B. heard this a from the housekeeper as well. They listened to him die, before they called the police. He was dying; he shot up poison. When Johnny was aware, that the “drugs” hit his blood stream, he tried to do whatever it took to save his own life. It sounded like he was jumping up, I see the care taker every day…he said, “It sound like something was bouncing wall to wall; it was a bouncing ball...” He had a hot shot, it could of been BATTERY ACID…this even showed up in the autopsy…he thought they sold him heroin…once it hit him in an effort to save his own life, he took everything he had (the methadone). It was a horrible death…I’ve read the police report… I didn’t and couldn’t imagine this, I don’t know who was there when they came in…but the guitar case was open. NOBODY killed this guy, he was all alone. He went to the street to buy something. No one could’ve killed him because NO ONE knew him…the only gig he did in New Orleans was in ’87 with me, he loved it here.
…The guy called me that day…
The syringe was in the toilet floating with blood. Stuff was all over the place. His guitar and his life were gone. People did take his stuff, but it was after he died. He ended up head first into the fireplace. He was dying, he didn’t know what to do. When I first heard this, I was thinking “Oh God, I shoulda fucking went…he might still be alive”…but what can you do? You can’t detour destiny. He called me that day, I’m not psychic…but why did he call me? He trusted me, I think…He couldn’t trust Jerry Nolan, you know what he’s going to do? Jerry was his brother, but he needed someone he could trust and that wasn’t a junkie like himself. He was by himself from the plane ride to the hotel room; he was bored. He wanted to get stuff, and it was the wrong place to get it. So when these people come up with the ‘mystery’…I say, “He died a fucked up death, bra.” He didn’t deserve that. I don’t think that this guy knew everyone wasn’t on his side. We were the kind of friends that could hang out everyday. Marcia Resnick, KNOWS how close I was too him. One day we were talking, when I got back from touring with him and she said, “Johnny loves you…” I said and thought, “I know, but why is there this lack of continuity? Why is everything based on something so counter-productive?” He became a whole different entity…when he couldn’t do this, what could he do? He could never even go one, good, straight week…
The legacy was going to continue, right? After that, April in ’92 I moved to Orleans to work with Dr. John and B.B.. Lech came here to do the film he recorded with me, and he went to the bar, right opposite to the guesthouse where Johnny stayed, across the street. Lech also went to the penitentiary to talk to some guy who ‘hung out’ with Jonny that last day. Lech was trying to do detective work because he wanted to sell his story. Lech invited me to do a session with a guy, that Johnny apparently gave 20 dollars to…he was a crack head that led him on the whole time. The guy carried a .45; they were interviewing this guy to try to find out something/anything about Johnny Thunders, the same with the penitentiary guy. He interviewed two other guys..Lech didn’t get shit out of him; he wouldn’t tell anyone anything because it didn’t happen…NO one was in the room with him. Nobody that he interviewed told him that they got stuff for him, and they were in the room with him (because they weren’t!). The people that he was seeing, didn’t have anything for him…when he got out from there…somehow he got something from someone. I know these kinds of people, I used to be scared…these people are scary! With the way Johnny looked, the guys thought “he’s going to buy from us”…he was a ripe tomato in a weed patch…It happens here every day!
Dr. John and Art Blackely did a blues album together; blues music is a jazz musician hero. I would play Johnny their songs over and over, ten times in a row…he said, “That’s the kinda song I want during my funeral…” he liked that stuff, ‘When The Saints Go Marching In” kinda thing…He wanted a Jazz funeral… “This is Dr. John’s country,” he told me in 1987. He got that, right?
It is now 2011, and why must the “mystery of Johnny Thunders” still be a mystery? Mysteries and the hopelessness of a junkies soul sells merchandise; while the bland, realistic, and often, pathetic truth doesn’t. How did Johnny die, well most of you already knew…but for all us who were deciding what story to believe, now the truth is really out. Sorry to say it wasn’t suicide, or murder. He died a “fucked up death” that happens everyday.
The following text was received from an email: “The particular address, is within a stone's throw of Armstrong Park, and also close to the Bienville Project. These areas were infested, with criminals, dealers, hustlers, and nickle and diming creatures. You could not traverse these neighbour hoods without being approached by these parasites, asking you,"You, awright bro?" Thunders, dressed in rock and roll garb was a easy victim or target for these desperate preys, he must have asked, one of these creeps, if they can find him some heroin or cocaine. Naturally, in this endeavour, what is the probability, if he had received something that he thought,what he had purchased,in a paper package,or an end of sandwich plastic bag was not heroin or cocaine? Knowing him. or any other person, with a heavy drug habit once, he has what he wanted it was a race to get back to the hotel room,whip up a spoon, and fill his harpoon (syringe). Little did my good friend, know that this would be his final attempt at trying to insert a spike into a vein,(which was a scarce commodity on Johnny's body). His arms were corrugated, looking like raw hide sitting in the hot sunlight. Shooting up, for him at that time of his life, was a very time consuming event. I stumbled up on him, many times in strange yoga like positions, attempting to find a spot where there was a vein. Bottom of his foot,ankle,forget the arms, Crowded runway,no possibility, of finding So Mr.Lech, you were just chasing,a mirage, trying to make a film, its not so hard to figure. What if this fate of Johnny, was some regular punter, without any popularity, close to a Thunder.”
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